The signs were pointing to a lukewarm Cop. Instead it turned out to be full of surprises – but is the final deal on fossil fuels just a ruse?
Not long before the crucial final meeting of Cop28 climate summit, a seemingly chance meeting took place in the heavily guarded VIP lounge next to the main conference hall in Dubai. John Kerry, the US climate envoy, and Sultan Al Jaber, the Cop28 president, exchanged warm greetings with Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, the energy minister of Saudi Arabia.
It was only a brief encounter, but it sealed a crucial understanding. Saudi Arabia, the blocker for 30 years of attempts to include fossil fuels in international climate agreements, was not going to stand in the way of this one. Just 24 hours earlier, according to insiders, Al Jaber faced fierce pressure from the Saudi delegation to water down the text. Now, for the first time, the archetypal petrostate would allow a global commitment to be made to “transition away” from fossil fuels.